Early Election Returns!

While we’re all waiting for this year’s votes to be counted, here’s a revised and updated repeat of a post that first appeared here on November 8, 2016.

Really early returns, from Mequon’s—and Washington County’s— first election, 1840.

In an earlier post, I outlined some of the key moments in the settlement and changing political boundaries of early Washington/Ozaukee county. Originally attached to Milwaukee County for all civil and judicial matters, old Washington County got its civil independence by act of the Territorial Legislature on February 19, 1840. And on “the second Monday of October next,” i.e., October 12, 1840, the first election to chose county officers was held at the Mequon home of Taylor Heavilon.1, 2

The 1840 judges of election were Jonathan M. Clark, Levi Ostrander and Taylor Heavilon. The clerks were Benjamin Bettys and E. N. Danforth. The first county officers elected were:

  • County Commissioners: Reuben Wells, Levi Ostrander and Barton Salisbury
  • Register of Deeds: Taylor Heavilon
  • Treasurer: George Bonniwell
  • Collector: V. R. Pettis
  • Assessor: Peter Turck and William T. Burdick
  • Coroner: Peter Turck
  • Constable: T. J. Holmes

The first county assessor and coroner was Mary Turck Clark’s father Peter Turck, by all accounts a man of many passions and enthusiasms. Since his arrival in Wisconsin in August, 1837 he farmed, built and operated the area’s first sawmill, and vigorously preached the gospel of full-immersion baptism. In July, 1840, Peter Turck served as the Assistant Marshal for the decennial federal census, collecting census information for all of Washington County. (His census data was officially certified by neighbor Barton Salisbury and son-in-law Jonathan M. Clark.) In later years Turck would serve the community as a lawyer, real estate agent and territorial and state legislator.

A total of thirty-four men voted in that first county election, comprising most, if not all, the eligible voters in the county. They were (in alphabetical order):

John Armstrong
B.[Benjamin] Bettys3
Charles Bonniwell
G. [George] Bonniwell
H. [Henry] V. Bonniwell
W. [William] T. Bonniwell
Nelson Bounst
Datus Cowan
E. N. Danforth
Isham Day
Samuel Drake
J. R. Eastman
James  Fox
T. Gardinier
T. [Taylor] Heavilon
C. Higgins
Jesse Hubbard
George Manley
S. McEvony
J. McMelon
Levi Ostrander
V. R. Pettis3
Barton Salisbury
J. G. Southwell
S. Stevens
D. [Daniel] Strickland
Peter Turck
A. D. Weisner
Reuben Wells
T. Weston
L. W. Wetherbee
John Willet
Timothy Wooden
William Worth

Interestingly, Jonathan M. Clark is not recorded as a voter on the first poll list of Washington County. He was there, he served as one of the judges of election, but he appears not to have voted. Is this another clue in the mystery of “Where Was JMC Born”? Stay tuned…


  1. Where, exactly, was this first Mequon/Washington County election held? According to the Bureau of Land Managment’s General Land Office website, Taylor Heavilon obtained five U.S. land patents in T9N-R21E, the Town of Mequon. The two earliest patents (December, 1840) were in sections 15 and 26; later patents were in sections 27 and 35 (1843) and again in section 26. I’m not sure on which of these parcels Taylor Heavilon’s house was located.

    My initial guess—and it’s only that—would be that his home was on his section 15 parcel, as that seems closest to the Mequon areas most heavily settled by 1840, namely sections 3, 4, 9 and 10. On the other hand, all of Heavilon’s other patents (sections 26, 27 and 35) are pretty closely grouped together in a large cluster the south-central part of the Town of Mequon. Perhaps his residence was there.

    Interestingly, on the 1st Monday in April, 1839, the Milwaukee County Comissioners met and set voting locations for an upcoming election. Heavilon’s house was designated as the official “Town of Washington” polling place for Milwaukee county. (source: Milwaukee Sentinel, June 4, 1839, page 4, col. 2 via Ancestry.com)

    Whatever his home’s location, Taylor Heavilon appears to have been an important early settler in Mequon, active in town affairs from the late 1830s through about 1843. Then it looks like he moved on; it appears that he moved back to Indiana and opened an inn in Clinton County. Readers, do any of you know more about Taylor Heavilon or his Mequon home? I’d love to hear from you.

  2. I’ve not seen primary sources for this 1840 election, and I’m not sure what records may still exist. If any readers are familiar with the county archives or the local historical society holdings, I’d love to know what sources remain from this era. Please contact me if you can share any information. 

    With no primary sources at hand, this post borrows heavily from the History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […], compiled and published by the Western Historical Company, Chicago, in 1881. It’s the earliest and longest published history for Washington and Ozaukee counties that I’ve seen, and once you’ve spent some time with it you’ll realize that its contents provided source material for large portions of many later histories of this area. Free pdf and e-book copies of this book are available online. Highly recommended if you have an interest in this area.

  3. Post revised November 8, 2016, to clarify the names of two voters. After consulting the 1840 federal census for both, and the BLM/GLO land patents for B. Bettys, there should not be confusion between settlers Benjamin Bettys and V. R. Pettis.

Post revised November 3, 2020 to clarify date of election, Peter Turck’s service in both the Wisconsin territorial and state legislatures, the location of Taylor Heavilon’s home, and add a few links.

2 thoughts on “Early Election Returns!

  1. Peter Turck certainly was an interesting man! Assessor – Coroner – Preacher
    I think our new JCH Young Historian Spencer will be interested in learning more about Peter.

    The name Heavilon does not “ring a bell” for me in my work at the Ozaukee County Historical Society.
    Perhaps Mary and Bob at the Mequon Thiensville Historical Society have some info.
    The OCHS files do not go back far enough to cover those early elections.
    Thanks for your research persistence.


    • Thanks, Nina!

      FYI, I was able to find out more about Taylor Heavilon. The very short summary is that he spent a few busy years in the Mequon area, and then returned to his home state of Indiana where he lived a reasonably long and prosperous life. An interesting character in early Mequon. I may write a short post about Mr. H. when I’m not in the thick of the Lower Canada land documents.



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